Networking, Marketing and Sales… Oh My!
I, too, have been afraid of selling. To be vulnerable. To make the other person awkwardly have to say ‘no’.
You need to have your mindset in the right place to go out there and sell your products or services. I know a lot of us get a little weird when it comes to asking people to open their wallets. Yet how you feel about asking your customers for money comes across in every interaction you have with them. Online and off, sales-driven or not.
The shift you need to make in your business is switching your mindset from taking to giving.
Sounds simple, right?
Now, there are definitely “sleazy sales people” out there who will do or say anything to make a buck; we, as their victims, have learned that selling is an aggressive and awkward invasion of someone’s space. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s not any of us. It’s like I always tell my son when we’re going over safety rules or he hears something scary on the news: most people in the world are genuinely good.
We want to be good people. Want to be loved. To do the right thing. We all make mistakes, too. But the point is, most of us don’t want our loved ones, our customers, or even ourselves to identify us with “the sleazy sales person”.
You don’t have to be seen that way. Every single one of us has a product or service to offer that someone needs. They might need it a little or they might need it desperately, but if you don’t let them know that you have a solution to their problem, you can’t help them.
Now, I know some of you are nodding along because you can see exactly how you help people, but some of you are thinking ‘my business doesn’t solve problems’. To you I say: you need to rephrase your definition of the word problem. Often, people aren’t even aware of a problem they have until they see a solution. You might be selling someone a product that makes their house feel more like a home, or writing a book that gives your reader a couple hours to escape into another world. People need all of these things.
Problems aren’t always obvious.
If you think about how non-profits raise money, it logically makes no sense for a person to donate. Think about it for a minute. If you’re a fundraiser for a non-profit, you need to be able to go up to someone and ask them to give you money when they will receive nothing in return. They know that part of the money they give you will go to the operation of the charity (including your salary), and the rest of the money is going to help someone they have never met. To solve someone else’s problem.
Asking someone for money and offering nothing in return is considered begging in most circumstances.
But any good fundraiser knows it’s not just someone else’s problem that the donation is solving. Some people – not all, but some – will give you the money. They do this because it solves a problem they have themselves. Maybe they’re feeling guilty that they have more than they need and that they just spent $5 on a latte when people around the world are going hungry. Or they could get a boost to their ego when they tell their friends they’ve supported your cause. They might wish they could quit their job and spend their lives doing charity work (or at least volunteer after work), and feel bad that they haven’t. Maybe they believe that the more they give, the more they will receive. Heck, they might just need a tax credit.
Selling isn’t shameless.
Actually, who cares if people think it’s shameless?
Amanda Palmer wrote a book about giving people the opportunity to help. She spent years as a street busker and crowdfunded an album after leaving her music label. This quote may be my favourite from the book:
“People were calling me shameless, but I decided to take that as an unintended complement. Wasn’t shame bad? Like fear? Nobody uses fearless as an insult.” – Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking
I will happily offer to help people without shame – anytime, any day.
Even I need a reminder now and then that it is OK to promote myself.
I’m an introvert, and with that comes some amazing benefits I wouldn’t trade for the world. Selling isn’t one of them. My particular brand of introversion also comes with an irrational fear of big crowds, talking to strangers and being the centre of attention. I like to think I hide it well, but it’s there.
Just a couple months ago, I attended a business networking event where I didn’t know a soul. I had moved across the country and spent months in a self-inflicted social hibernation. Now, being my typical wallflower self, I nearly didn’t go. I had been finding an excuse to skip these events for months, despite putting them on my calendar.
After locating the venue – a little bar at the base of an office building – I drove around the block a couple of times to calm my nerves. Finally parking the car about two blocks away, I shakily walked up to the pub. People were packed into the tiny room, overflowing into crowds outside the door. I pushed my way through the groups at the entrance. Taking one look at the crowded room, and made a beeline for the washroom. I locked the door, looked at myself in the mirror, and said out loud “Jessica, you are not here to ask anything from anyone. You’re simply here to learn about the problems people are having and let them know you if you can help.”
If you share what problem you solve with enough people, clearly and enough times, they’ll come to you when they need help. That’s the core of what marketing is.
I made a handful of connections that night – most that never responded to my follow-up emails – and someone I had met there ended up giving me a great referral about a week later.
There are worse things in the world than having someone say ‘no, thank you’.
Imagine that non-profit never told anyone about the work they were doing. That they never shared the stories of the people they were helping, never gave you the opportunity to solve your own problems by giving. How sad would it be if they were so scared of people saying no that they never put themselves out there and gave them a chance to say yes?
Next time you’re writing your sales copy, marketing your services, or attending a networking event in a crowded pub, remember your reason for selling: to give people to opportunity for you to solve a problem for them.
When you sell from a place of integrity, you can be fearless. You can be shameless and feel good about it.
‘Sell’ is not a four letter word…. not a dirty one, anyway.